Monday, April 13, 2009

A Year of Reading, by Elisabeth Ellington and Jane Freimiller, Ph.D.

I found this book in the library as I perused the shelves for books to fulfill requirements for my Dewey Decimal Challenge. I thought, if anything, it would generate a list of more books to read.

Well, this book does that, and much more. Specifically, it's a book designed for those who are just starting book clubs, or veteran book clubbers who want to improve their experiences.

Ellington and Freimiller have divided this book into twelve parts, one for each month of the year. Each month has a specific theme, and five books that go along with the theme. For example, January's books all deal with winter. February's books deal with Black History Month, March's books deal with Women's History Month, May's books with Mother's Day, and November's with food. You get the idea.

Each chapter has five categories of books from which the book club, or the reader, can choose (p. xvii):
  • Crowd-pleasers are books that will appeal to almost everyone. These are titles sharing strong plots, compelling characters, and topical issues.
  • Classics offer an opportunity to return to old favorites, fill in educational gaps, and discover enduring literature.
  • Challenges are ambitious titles offering challenging subject matter or style for readers who want to stretch their limits.
  • Memoirs are for those interested in a more personal style of writing.
  • Potluck, the final category, adds an element of surprise and unpredictability to the line-up. Here you'll find essays, short stories, history and other nonfiction, as well as a few unusual novels.

Each chapter goes beyond merely having a list of books. The authors write discussion questions for each novel. This is a handy feature if you have both this book and the suggested one on hand, but it gets a little overwhelming when you've never read the book that is being discussed. Sometimes, if you've never read the book, and you're reading the discussion questions, you may find some potential spoilers. Other times you'll find that the questions will pique your interest about a particular book. Read the questions carefully, or if you're afraid of spoilers, skip them entirely.

In addition to the discussion questions, Ellington and Freimiller offer other book suggestions. For example, if one liked reading Little Women, the authors have a list of other books that they may enjoy, such as Anne of Green Gables or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. They also suggest some movie versions of popular novels. In one intriguing suggestion, they advise the reader to rent all of the versions of Jane Eyre available on DVD and arguing over which actor best portrays Rochester. You'll also find internet resources, bits of trivia, and even museum resources if you want to visit places that were described in the books that are listed.

At the end of the book, there are two appendices. One offers suggestions on how to find a book club, and the other one offers guidelines on how to run and maintain one.

A Year of Reading provides a list that will fill any reader's TBR pile for more than a year. I've come up with a list of good suggestions for future reads that will definitely round out my TBR pile. However, I don't think I will finish them all this year, but that's okay. I can include them on my list for reading challenges next year!

This is the latest entry in my 2009 100+ Reading Challenge, as well as my 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge and my 2009 Dewey Decimal Challenge. For an archived, updated list of past reads, click on the buttons in the right sidebar.


Celia said...

I LOVE Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm and no one ever wants to read it. I am suggesting a write in vote for Caddie Woodlawn.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Darling Bookkitten.....I find that I read many, many of the books on your list. I'm an avid reader and love a good book, a glass of wine (or a bottle) and a fire to read beside. Sigh, most of the cool weather is gone, so no fires for awhile I'm afraid :(
I read your post very, very often but am soooo behind on commenting. I've been very sick but am still hanging in there.
Take good care gal and......

Steady ON
Reggie Girl

Yaya said...

Sounds like a very useful book!

Jenners said...

Another winner... man, you are on a roll! You are going to cost me a small fortune!